Consumer health informatics

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Consumer health informatics is a branch of health or clinical informatics that analyzes information needs of consumers, develops, tests, and implements strategies to deliver health information to consumers, and integrates consumer preferences into clinical information systems.[1]

This subspeciality of medical informatics studies the use of electronic information and communication to improve medical outcomes and the health care decision making process from the patient or consumer perspective. Houston et al. has differentiated consumer health informatics from the existing field of medical informatics "because of its frequent patient-centered approach, consumer health informatics may have an even stronger overlap with public health." [2]

Examples of consumer health information technologies include: personal health records, smart cards, clinical e-mail communication, online pharmacies, interactive health communication technologies (IHC), and other technologies which engage consumers in shared and collaborative decision-making.

The objectives of these consumer-focused informatics applications include providing information to consumers, promoting self care, enabling informed decision-making, promoting healthy behaviors, and promoting peer information exchange and social support. A systematic review was conducted by Or and Karsh, to identify patient acceptance of consumer health information technology. Many variables were included such as:Patient Factors, Human–Technology Interaction Factors, Organizational Factors, Environmental Factors, Social Factors and Task factors. Evidence does show that CHITs can improve patients' quality of life and well-being, and increase medication adherence. However, technologies cannot help facilitate self-monitoring and self-management or improve patients' health outcomes when patients do not accept the technology.

In 2005, the first textbook in Consumer Health Informatics [3] was published by Springer. The text covers patient empowerment, frameworks and models for health behavior change, patient to patient and patient to provider communication, privacy and confidentiality, ethical issues, and evaluation methods.

Resources

There are currently a very limited number of websites dedicated to the topic. Listed below are three of the more useful sites:

  1. International Medical Informatics Association Consumer Informatics Working Group - http://www.imia-medinfo.org/new2/node/137
  2. Consumer Health Informatics: Is There a Role for HIM Professionals? - Article in Perspectives in Health Information Management
  3. AMIA Consumer Health Informatics Working Group - https://www.amia.org/working-group/consumer-health-informatics


References

  1. Eysenbach, G. Consumer health informatics. British Medical Journal, 2000; 320, 1713-1716.
  2. Houston TK, Chang BL, Brown S, et al. Consumer health informatics: a consensus description and commentary from American Medical Informatics Association members. Proc AMIA Symp 2001;269–73.
  3. Lewis D, Eysenbach G, Kukafka R, Stavri PZ, Jimison H. (Eds). Consumer Health Informatics: Informing Consumers and Improving Health Care. 2005; New York: Springer.


Submitted by Matthew J. Cook, MPH